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Tarkovsky’s Trance: TIFF Retro Explores the Work of an Austere Master

Just seven. Seven features over twenty-four years. That’s the sum of Andrei Tarkovsky’s output. Each one is a starkly entrancing masterpiece, evidencing a unique metaphysical vision. They’re about as far from easy films as you can get. They’re rich, nuanced and spare, and hugely influential in an oblique way. Art house giants like Lars von Trier and Terrence Malick owe a tremendous debt to Tarkovsky, and the existential science fiction of films like Stalker and Solaris casts a long, looming shadow into the present day.

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TIFF 2017: Beast

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Beast wasn’t in my original TIFF plans. Extremely limited press screenings forced me to blow up my schedule twice, but I saw the main things I wanted. Beast was a pick-up, from promising new filmmaker Michael Pearce. In the film, a woman is forced to defend her lover when he falls under suspicion for a series of brutal murders. While the film’s twists yank it a tad too far from the realm of believability, it’s a tense thriller and a quality debut.

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TIFF 2017: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Martin McDonagh’s likes his comedies like his coffee: black. Actually, I have no idea how McDonagh takes his coffee, if he takes it at all. But boy does he have a way with finding the humour in very dark situations. His first two features were uneven, but both In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths unearthed surprising depths among their myriad quirks. With his latest, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, McDonagh has created a richer film, bubbling with tension, stark satire and even a hint of that elusive trait redemption.

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TIFF 2017: The Shape of Water PLUS Red Band Trailer

The Shape of Water is, ah, shaping up to be the film of the year. Guillermo del Toro’s latest brilliant film just won the top prize, the Golden Lion, at the Venice Film Festival, and it’s a good bet to win at least The People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. It’s been such a hot ticket, it took me two tries to see it. And that’s at press and industry only screenings! It doesn’t come out until Friday, December 8th in North America, but lucky for all y’awl, the Red Band trailer just dropped. That and a mini-review after the jump!

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TIFF 2017: mother!

This year at TIFF we’re seeing the Trump era’s first real artistic blowback. I started with Darren Aronofsky’s mother! (opening across North America this Friday, September 15th), and holy cow, it kicked things off with a bang. That exclamation point in the title is wholly deserved, and you can add about fifteen more in your head. Part psychological horror, part religious allegory, part study of the narcissistic vampirism of the artist/creator, mother! keeps coiling in on itself, like a serpent swallowing its frenzied, burgeoning tail. But is it a tale worth watching, or the sort of child only a mother could love?

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TIFF 2017: Dragonfly Eyes

Dragonfly Eyes, Chinese artist Xu Bing’s first foray into feature-length filmmaking, is a direct glimpse into what the future of cinema might be.

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Happy TIFFmas! Toronto’s film fest reveals first 2017 picks

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It’s the silly season for Toronto filmgoers, the cine-season, TIFFmas to many devoted local movie buffs. Today the Toronto International Film Festival 2017 edition announced its first swath of upcoming films. These are Gala and Special Presentation flicks, and there’s bound to be a passel of Oscar-hunting contenders worth checking out. Catch the full list after the jump!

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Near Dark: The Original Hillbilly Vamps

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Long before the teen angst pangs of Twilight or the fever heat of True Blood, director Kathryn Bigelow had an inkling of what a southern-fried vampire romance could be. Near Dark delivered on her vision of hillbilly vamps, an eighties cult classic that’s hard to believe is coming up on its thirtieth anniversary. The cinephiles at TIFF have dug out an archival print, so this Friday, July 21st, Bigelow’s blood-sucking hicks will rise again.

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Panique: French Crime Classics

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Judex is an early progenitor for the likes of David Lynch and Eyes Wide Shut

If you like thrillers, genre-bending capers, femmes fatales and shady figures wrapped up in criminal exploits where no one comes out on top, chances are you’re a film noir fan through and through. Maybe you’ve seen Chinatown ten times, and you think you’ve got the plot of The Maltese Falcon figured out. Maybe you have. But a jaded noir aficionado could do a lot worse than to check out some of the gritty gems in TIFF’s upcoming program Panique: French Crime Classics. It’s one dark amuse-bouche after another, a feast of chilling misanthropy and malice for the summer. “Cinematic A/C, Gallic style,” quips James Quandt, Senior Programmer, and he’s not wrong. These flicks get in your bones.

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Hardest Boiled: The Many Noirs of Jean-Pierre Melville

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Alain Delon stars in Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai (1967)

This summer, TIFF’s having a crime wave. French crime to be exact. They’re mounting two programmes, both bursting with criminal intent. I’ll take a look at the second bunch next week, a brilliant collection of flicks called Panique: French Crime Classics. Opening today is a different but related programme, Army of Shadows: The Films of Jean Pierre Melville. It’s a great ride, too, full of cool noirs and hard-boiled thrillers, from the best director named Melville that most definitely did not write Moby Dick.

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